Berks County intends to use sharpshooting at Antietam Lake Park to help reduce the deer population to alleviate negative impacts on the park and achieve a more balanced ecosystem.
The sharpshooting operation, which will be conducted at night by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, will begin this month and continue throughout April. This is the second phase of a deer management program the county approved last April in partnership with Wildlife Services.
The first phase of the program, which took place from September through January, was a controlled archery hunt performed by a group of hunters who had secured special licenses through a closed application process conducted by the Wildlife Services. The county said the controlled hunt resulted in the removal of 26 deer.
Following the controlled hunt, county officials said studies were performed to determine if the desired level for deer density had been reached. The desired deer density for a healthy, diverse forest habitat is 20 to 25 deer per square mile. They said the current deer density of Antietam Lake Park is estimated at 83 deer per square mile.
Since the that density is still much higher than the desired level, county officials said the deer management program will be moving into a controlled sharpshooting phase.
According to a press release issued by the county, the goals of the program are:
• To reduce park land and forest property damage.
• Minimize the threat of disease.
• Reduce deer-related accidents.
• Balance the ecosystem.
The white-tailed deer is one of the most influential wildlife species in Pennsylvania’s forested ecosystems, the press release stated. However, when their population is out of balance with their habitat, deer can negatively affect county forests by over-browsing tree seedlings, shrubs and wildflowers. Over-browsing alters the diversity and habitat for other forest mammals and birds, eliminates the shrub layer, greatly reduces the diversity of forest-floor plant species and creates a flooding risk.
The deer removed by the sharpshooting operations will be processed and the venison will be donated to a local food bank for human consumption, as required by Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations.
Source: Berkshire mont